It has been an exciting past three days at Davos. I have had good opportunities to meet business leaders from various industries in multiple forums, including one-to-one meetings, World Economic Forum sessions, the IT Governor’s sessions and also the Infosys Lunch Panel Discussion hosted by us. In the run up to this Annual Meeting, as I was watching the news, I sensed a basic skepticism from the media and society around the effectiveness of an event like this.
However, what has transpired over the past three days reaffirms my belief that events like this give the ideal platform for business leaders to get together to discuss and debate key global issues. Beyond governments, corporations are the largest and most influential bodies that can drive large-scale socio-economic development. They create jobs – both directly and indirectly, they provide livelihoods and they contribute to the improvement in the general standard of living in the societies that they operate in. Organizations clearly have the power to drive change and create hope. I am reminded of what Peter Parker says in the Spider Man movies – “With great power, comes great responsibility”. It is this responsibility of corporations and of business leaders who are at its forefront that has been at the heart of the discussions over the past three days.
At the Infosys Lunch Panel Discussion on 25th January, I got an opportunity to discuss the role of the CEO with a distinguished panel comprising John Chambers (Cisco), Jim Turley (Ernst & Young) and Tim Brown (IDEO). There was a general consensus that the CEO plays a critical role that goes even beyond driving sustainable growth and innovation. In view of the emerging trends in technology and society and the events that led to the recent economic crisis, the role of the CEO has evolved. To overcome the current crisis of trust, CEOs need to strengthen governance and improve transparency in order to rebuild the trust. Given the current macro-economic uncertainty, while short-term challenges are the key concern, CEOs must bear in mind that they cannot ignore the decisions that shape the long-term. In the long-term, CEOs have the unique responsibility to envision a future where opportunities are abundant and growth is inclusive. Finally, while talent continues to be the driving force for any business strategy, it is clearly in short supply. The need of the day is to retrain and reskill existing talent pools while also looking at new avenues.
To conclude, the events that started in early 2008 in one part of the world, led to a domino effect that spread its consequences to the far corners of the world. I strongly believe that if businesses can work together towards a common purpose of creating a future that is better than, if not as good as the one we inherited, we can surely reverse the domino effect. What better place to start this process than Davos?
SD Shibulal is Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Infosys.